Nuclear waste sent to landfill

WRONGLY labelled bags of radioactive waste were sent to a landfill site, earning the company that owns the Sellafield nuclear plant a £700,000 fine.

The incident occurred when four bags containing materials including plastic and metal were sent from Sellafield to Lillyhall landfill in Workington in April 2010. Their destination should have been the Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg in Cumbria. This breached the conditions of the company’s environmental permit and the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations.
The company said the bags had been wrongly marked as general waste, exempting them from strict disposal controls. This was attributed to the wrong configuration of a new monitor.
Following a subsequent investigation by the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) the bags were retrieved from the landfill and returned to Sellafield.
At Carlisle Crown Court in June, Judge Peter Hughes attributed the incident to management failures at the site, which demonstrated a culture that was “too lax” and “complacent”. Sellafield Ltd was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay more than £72,000 costs. The charges were brought by the Environment Agency and the ONR.
Extra checks have now been put in place at the plant according to Sellafield spokesman Tom Foster.
The ONR was formed in 2011 from a merger between the Health & Safety Executive’s Nuclear Directorate and an office of the Department of Transport.